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Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Stone's stones and the Cursus connection

I'm very confused about Stone's stones and the Cursus connection. I have been taking another look at this article:

“The petrography, affinity and provenance of lithics from the Cursus Field, Stonehenge”, by RA Ixer & RE Bevins, Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Magazine 103 (2010) 1–15

It was published seven years ago, and that's a long time in the great scheme of things relating to Stonehenge. But in it, the authors say that new analyses of rock samples from Stonehenge, the Stonehenge Cursus Field and Pembrokeshire have shown that some of the rhyolite and ash fragments on Salisbury Plain have probably come from innocuous locations between Preseli and the north Pembrokeshire coast, but that others are from unknown locations maybe outside Wales. So far so good.......

Then there is another article by Rob Ixer, :

Digging into Stonehenge’s past
Mineral Planning, issue 143 / October 2012, p 13

In it, he says that the cause (of much new debate) "is a recent re-examination of the contents of a little box of stones collected by JF Stone in 1947 from plough soil close to the Stonehenge Greater Cursus and donated to the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum. Many of the ten or so stones – none of which are bigger than a fist – were found to be texturally and mineralogically distinctive.
Initial investigations showed none of these matched any of the standing bluestones......" But Ixer then went on to say that some of them matched the rhyolites from Craig Rhosyfelin, and continued:  "So the contents of a 60-year-old box led to the discovery of the first secure Stonehenge-related quarry site, confirming that man moved the bluestones. But the initial assessment of Stone’s stones was wrong, because in June 2012, one of the rocks was recognised as coming from bluestone SH48, making it only the fourth piece of debitage from thousands investigated that could be matched to a specific bluestone orthostat."

Let's forget the wild speculation about quarries and concentrate on the fragments. Presumably the rocks identified originally as "acid volcanics and tuffs" are now referred to as foliated rhyolites? Is there any spotted dolerite in the collection? And exactly how many different exotic rock types are there in the Stone collection and in other collections from more recent digs at Durrington Walls, Windmill Hill and the Cursus? Did Richard Atkinson really find a lump of spotted dolerite on Silbury Hill, and are there really at least 1300 "bluestone fragments" inside the hill itself?

In an article by Tim Darvill published in 2012, he says:

"A review of samples from the Altar Stone confirmed that it was a fine-to-medium
grained calcareous sandstone of the kind found in the Senni Beds of south Wales.
Four other pieces of sandstone from the Stonehenge Cursus, Stonehenge, Aubrey
Hole 1 and Aubrey Hole 5 share a common lithology as low-grade metasediments
and derive from a different source area, possibly from Lower Palaeozoic sandstone
beds (Ixer & Turner 2006).
"An examination of finds from the Cursus Field collected in 1947 and from
excavations by the SRP in 2006 and 2008 confirmed that much of the material could
be matched with samples from Stonehenge (identified as Groups A–D: Ixer & Bevins
2011a; 2011b) but that some rhyolites could not be matched amongst existing
samples (Ixer & Bevins 2010; Ixer et al. forthcoming)."

(Research activity in the Stonehenge Landscape 2005–2012 Timothy Darvill
Stonehenge and Avebury Revised Research Framework
6 July 2012)

In the recent Darvill / Wainwright chapter in the Pembrokeshire County History (Vol 1), they refer to "widely recognized" rhyolite fragments (some of unknown provenance) in the debitage from the 2008 Stonehenge dig, from the Heelstone area, from some Aubrey Holes, from the Avenue and the Cursus.........

I am rather confused by all of this, because Rob Ixer, in his review of my 2008 book called "The Bluestone Enigma", criticised me for the inaccuracy of my reporting on the finds associated with the Cursus. He said: "Almost every sentence about the Great Cursus and its associated lithics (pp 68, 69, 77, 103, 108) is incorrect -- once again these errors, missing from the original papers, are found on-line." He never did say what those errors were, and I still think that I was reporting accurately on those pages the situation as it was in 2008.

So is there abundant bluestone erratic material in the Stonehenge landscape, or is there not?


TonyH said...

I put my money on yes, there is abundant bluestone erratic material in the Stonehenge landscape.

Question is - WHO will be the FIRST Archaeologist to step out of line [at present, they are all standing obediently and subserviently in line behind that chap, Whatisname's? Ruling Hypothesis] and break free of the rigid caucus of' Yes Men' who follow like sheep??

T said...

Despite the fact that there is indeed much about Stonehenge and the media that owes its origins to "TV Garbage" [Brian's last Post earlier today], there is a large, well - educated public well informed in much of prehistoric archaeology.

Time for one or two archaeologists and/or geographers/ geomorhologists/ geologists to step out of the Party line and give these folk some balance in the debate surrounding in particular the glacial hypothesis.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Well, in that recent chapter Darvill and Wainwright couldn't be much clearer. Yes, they said, there is indeed abundant bluestone material scattered about. I assume that statement was checked with the geologists.

BRIAN JOHN said...

If you type in "debitage" or "Stonehenge landscape" into the search box on this blog, you will find abundant references 2010-2016 from the archaeologists to bluestone fragments scattered about in all of the locations studied thus far, including frequent references to the Cursus as a source of finds. That's why I am at a loss to understand why Rob accused me of inaccurate reporting of the Cursus situation.

Myris of Alexandria said...

Ah many many good points.

It appears that Zeitgeisten come in large and small packages. One of the forthcoming pet rock boys papers deals with this, another more detailed paper (next years Ferret club) also deals with the problem of how many rock types are there. What is echte bluestone and what is fancy. None are erratics.

I am deeply unhappy that you should think that I was criticising you when I said "almost all etc".in one of my book reviews of your little blue book. I was not talking about your repetition of the errors but the errors (initially made by other)themselves. I think I was having a pop at the SW mad axe group, it was very long ago and really dozens of papers in the past.

The pet rock boys have learned a great deal since the Cursus paper, indeed much of that paper was written before the Pet Rock boys burst into incandescence and so had to be revised after initial publication. The Cursus paper is really the last of the 19-21 cent SH groping lithology papers before the mists cleared to reveal the blazing truth. (Ah blessed Avalon)
Best to accept the descriptions are good and correct but the rock names have been updated. It is why the PRB are writing a couple of review papers.
Sorry but please be patient and a comprehensive review is on the way
You wont like it of course. But blessed Kostas (Hi by the way)will as it is the Truth.

There is very little spotted dolerite in secure contexts away from SH no none occurs at the western end of the Stonehnege Greater Cursus. An oddity that has been remarked upon often by said PRB.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Myris. We have progress.

By the way, an erratic, for a geomorphologist, is simply a stone found in an unexpected or unusual context. Some erratics involve glacial erosion, transport and emplacement, and some do not. So we have erratic material, mostly in the form of small stones or fragments, on Salisbury Plain, all over the place. That much is not in dispute.

TonyH said...

Myris, old chum, was anyone given the task of monitoring the geological nature of stones found in the vicinity of the Stonehenge Visitor Centre whilst it was under construction?

Myris of Alexandria said...

The nature of the bluestones associated with the grassing of the A344, where it cut the Avenue, has certainly been described and is in print.Later this year or (I hope next year.
I don't know about the visitor's centre, I am sure it was assessed, but no stone from there has passed the hallowed portals of the Pet Rock Boys' Man Caves.
Tim Daws' site has germane recent posts.